Activists in Hong Kong are calling on the public to join a protest on Sunday (September 6) to oppose the national security law, the potential launch of a new health code system and the recent postponement of democratic polls. Sunday is the same day that Legislative Council elections were originally scheduled to be held.
The protest has been promoted on posters on social media, including Facebook and Telegram, over the past week. One poster says black-clad protesters will march along Nathan Road from Jordan to Mong Kok from 2:30pm on the day.
Organizers, who have remained anonymous, said in a Telegram group they hoped 50,000 people would take part in Kowloon, but acknowledged that they might cancel the march if there were safety concerns.
That seems likely, however. Police said on Facebook they were aware of the proposed event, which has not been granted official approval. They said anyone who organized or incited people to join an illegal assembly would violate the Public Order Ordinance and face up to five years in jail. They said demonstrators might also violate the Prevention and Control of Disease (Prohibition on Group Gathering) Regulation if they gathered in public.
Currently, gatherings of more two people are banned on the streets for anti-epidemic reasons. Police have stepped up efforts to curb protests which have been fewer and farther between since the new national security law was implemented in Hong Kong on June 30.
At the same time, police have been widely accused of misusing social-distancing rules to fine protesters and disrupt media work by frequently checking the ID cards of journalists.
Still, there have been sporadic demonstrations. On August 30, more than a hundred people gathered in the MOKO and Langham Place shopping malls in Mongkok and chanted slogans including “Liberate Hong Kong, the revolution of our times.” Police fined 29 people HK$2,000 (US$258) each for violating social distancing rules at the protest.
On August 31, hundreds of people gathered outside of the Prince Edward MTR station to mark the “August 31 incident” of 2019, at which many mass transit passengers were injured in a police operation at the station.
Police intercepted and fined some people at the commemorative event. They also arrested at least 14 people for unlawful assembly, disorder in a public place, assaulting police and possessing an imitation firearm.
Activists have highlighted the case of an apparent passer-by surnamed Fung, who was arrested by police for “disorderly conduct in a public place” on Argyle Street near Tung Choi Street after he complained that they had pushed his pregnant wife.
According to footage taken by NineTeen Media Four E and Studio Incendo, when the couple were leaving the area police suddenly charged to arrest the man and pulled down his wife in the process. Authorities also used pepper spray on the crowd.
Police later expressed concern about the incident, but said they only knew about the pregnant woman after she fell.
Chief Executive Carrie Lam has waded into the controversy, saying she was concerned about the case and hoped such incidents would not be repeated. After Fung was granted bail on Tuesday, he accused the riot police of “losing control.”
Activists are trying to capitalize on such violent incidents. Elmer Yuen, a retired Hong Kong entrepreneur and pro-democracy activist, proposed that people sign a new petition titled “Support Hong Kong to Restart a Clean 2020 Legislative Council Election NOW.”
Yuen says he hopes to boost the number of signatures by 10 times to more than a million by Sunday. He has claimed it was totally legal and safe to call for the resumption of LegCo elections and that it was important for Hong Kong people to continuously voice their democratic demands.
Meanwhile, the chance that pro-democracy lawmakers will boycott the LegCo from October rose on Friday after several said they would step down from the extended LegCo if that’s what respondents of an upcoming poll say they want.
The poll, commissioned by the pan-democrats, is scheduled to run for a week starting on September 21. The Public Opinion Research Institute will poll 2,000 random people by phone and release the results a week later.
Pan-democrats said last month they would consider ending their terms on September 30 if two-thirds of the survey’s respondents urged them to do so. They have indicated they prefer to extend their term to continue to monitor the government while others in their camp said the legislators had lost their mandate to continue.
Sunday’s planned protest is also aimed at a proposed new health code system that will allow people to travel to mainland China and Macau. It has not yet been launched due to the Covid-19 outbreak. Some activists fear that the health code system, which they claim will limit people’s freedom of movement, will come after the present universal virus test scheme is concluded.